Can Stuntmen or Actors Sue for Injuries?

Stuntmen may have the most dangerous job on a film set, they risk life and limb to enhance the cinematic experience. Many safety precautions are made on sets, but there are always unknown components such as faulty equipment, human error and more that can contribute to horrific injuries for stuntmen and actors alike. Although they are aware of the risks involved, are stuntmen/actors able to sue when an injury occurs? Let’s take a look at what would need to be proved in order to have a case.

Negligence on Set

The definition of negligence is the failure to take proper care in doing something. A lawsuit would need to prove that the injuries sustained by a stuntman or actor was due to negligence on behalf of the film producers. This entails proving that the violation of a duty was the actual and proximate cause of his or her injuries. He or she will also have to prove duty, breach of duty, and damages. Unfortunately, this is not an easy task to do. If negligence is able to be proved, then your own actions will come into question. Some states will prohibit you from legal action if the induced harm was caused by your behavior as well, known as contributory negligence, but in California it will not automatically prohibit your claim.

In 2011, a lawsuit was brought against Warner Brothers by a stuntman injured while filming The Hangover II. According to the claim, the movie’s stunt coordinator made a last minute change to the sequence of a car crash, which resulted in an accident causing permanent physical injuries to the stuntman’s brain. It’s not known whether or not the studio compensated the employee, as the case was voluntarily dismissed.

In another lawsuit, filed against Paramount Pictures and Tom Cruises’ production company in 2006, a stuntman alleged negligence on behalf of the production company for a gasoline bomb explosion on set of Mission: Impossible III. The explosion caused the plaintiff to suffer burns to around 60 percent of his body. He sued for pain and suffering and his spouse sued for loss of consortium, meaning the injured person could not engage in marital relations any longer.

Affirmative Defenses for Studios

The defendants (the studios) in these lawsuits can then deny liability by having the option to raise an affirmative defense. Meaning that they explain why the alleged negligence is actually a justified action. An example of this type of defense is the assumption of risk, in which the defendant attempts to show that the plaintiff (stuntman) voluntarily and knowingly understood the risks of the dangerous activity in which he or she was participating in at the time of his or her injury so they cannot be held liable.

The burden of proof falls on the defendant in the case of affirmative defense so they will have to prove that the plaintiff was aware of the risks involved.

In contrast, the plaintiff may counter with the fact that there was a last minute modification, such as the sequence change in the Hangover II lawsuit. The likelihood of success for the plaintiff is minimal as the immense risks involved in a stuntman’s career are a known fact.

If You Have Been Injured

Fully protect and maximize your chances for receiving compensation by hiring an experienced personal injury attorney at Arash Law. For a free consultation, contact us today so we may give you sound legal advice and guidance.